With my rather tame obsession for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) I have completed two and am at present enrolled in three more. My tendency to multi-task has backfired rather painfully—the work from all three is colliding with the work I have to do for the college I actually attend. The weekly assignments from the MOOCs are interesting, but quite frankly a pain in the behind when Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and R.L. Stevenson beckon from the Victorian Period.
To get on to the more positive aspects of MOOCs, they help to really make you feel better about yourself. This is not just in the clichéd “Oh, it is so nice to meet new people” sense, but in a more complex way.
As far as meeting people goes, I like to preserve my anonymity, so I really don’t interact too much on the forums and discussion threads that are constantly popping up from sources all over the world. It is interesting to see the things people write, and occasionally the ludicrousness of the opinions will make me laugh, but often I agree with certain views. When people disagree, there is a fair amount of debate that I find entertaining, sometimes informative and otherwise just completely unintelligible!
When people hold views I agree with I feel a sort of anonymous approval and self-affirmation. This is how these courses help me, apart from the most obvious way in learning about some topic or the other. The courses can help you remember that there are people out there who agree with you about things, which somehow makes me feel I am not alone in the big scary world. It is like when you meet someone and you agree about everything, you feel connected. This happens on a much larger scale with some of the MOOCs, especially where you get to read people’s assignments as part of the peer grading system.
The most interesting thing perhaps is that the videos and assignments force you to rethink some of the ideas you hold. Either by directly proving their fallacy, as in the case of myths about Psychology that were debunked in my course- Introduction to Psychology as a Science, or by just pointing out chinks that you can go on to attack, until you are left without any armour (just to complete my metaphor).
Some see MOOCs as a waste of time, but I think people who stick it out to the end become more critical about the subject of the course, and can apply the positive aspects of it however they want. Or even the negative aspects, I mean, who knows what some people choose to take away from a course?